The function of E-cadherin is thought to be regulated by its associated cytoplasmic proteins including alpha-catenin. To determine whether possible downregulation of alpha-catenin expression may play a role in tumor invasion and metastasis through the dysfunction of E-cadherin, we investigated the expression of alpha-catenin in human carcinoma samples (esophagus, stomach, and colon) by immunohistochemistry using our monoclonal antibody against alpha-catenin (alpha-18). Normal epithelium expressed alpha-catenin strongly without exception. However, alpha-catenin expression was frequently reduced in primary tumors of esophagus (12 of 15:80%), stomach (14 of 20: 70%), and colon (8 of 10: 80%). Of the tumors with reduced alpha-catenin expression, alpha-catenin expression was completely negative in 70.6% of them (9 of 12 in esophagus, 9 of 14 in stomach, and 6 of 8 in colon). These results also suggested that some human cancer cells may have impaired E-cadherin-mediated cell adhesiveness through the downregulation of alpha-catenin expression.